‘State of the Market’ Survey: first poll reveals when customers expect to resume corporate travel

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New Zealand is expected to lead the world in corporate travel recovery, according to the first phase of a multinational ‘State of the Market’ survey by Flight Centre Corporate. 

A total of 1600 customers of global travel management companies (TMCs) FCM Travel Solutions and Corporate Traveller in New Zealand, Australia, EMEA, Asia, the Americas, and India, took part in the survey last month in order to gain greater insight into prevailing sentiments on business travel as countries emerge from the Covid-19 crisis. Customers taking part in the study range from smaller businesses spending an average of NZ$150k on travel annually, to large multi-national customers with travel spending of over NZ$150m per year. 

70% of participants agreed that they expected to increase business travel gradually over a period of time with consensus peaking in business travel returning domestically in one to three months (40% of respondents) and internationally in six to twelve months (32% of respondents). 

The easing or complete lift of border restrictions ranked as the primary trigger for resuming business travel (70% said this would have a significant impact) closely followed by organisational endorsement that it is safe to travel (68% of respondents indicated traveller safety will have a significant impact). However only half of the respondents believe that their business travel volumes will eventually reach pre-coronavirus levels. 

Business travel recovery will be led by New Zealand and Asia, according to survey participants in those regions. In NZ, 61% of survey participants have travelled domestically already or expect to travel within one to three months, and 38% anticipate starting to book international trips within three to six months. In Asia, 50% of respondents have already begun booking domestic travel and 37% expect to resume international travel in three to six months. 

The highest level of uncertainty around when domestic and international business travel will resume significantly was in the Americas with 28% of respondents saying that they did not know when travel would return. 

Other notable findings in the State of the Market study’s first phase are as follows: 

• 42% of respondents in New Zealand believe that the technical advancements made over COVID-19 will reduce their need to travel for work. 

• Corporates in the mining and construction sectors indicate the fastest return to travel: 64% of respondents in mining sector expect to travel domestically within one to three months and 69% of respondents in the construction sector expect to travel domestically and internationally within the same timeframe. 

• Construction (39%), training & education (35%) and financial services (34%) sectors indicate increasing business travel within the first six months.

• Winning new business (43% of respondents) and managing existing client relationships (39% of respondents) are the two dominant business activities motivating organisations to a return to travel. 

There were no distinct findings when comparing small to large businesses. 

“The business travel landscape and the needs of our customers have changed beyond all recognition over the last few months and business travel conditions will continue to evolve and shift as everyone comes out the other side of the global pandemic,” said Nick Queale, General Manager, Flight Centre Corporate. “It’s vital that both FCM and Corporate Traveller understand if and how our customers in each market and industry sectors will start to travel again, and their primary concerns and objectives when they do so. 

“The first phase of our State of the Market survey has given us valuable insight into this process and how we can provide the best level of support. However, the whole post-COVID-19 era is still full of uncertainties and everyone is living and working in an environment that will continue to change.” 

The State of the Market study is an ongoing research project including customer polls, which will be followed by further in-depth customer interviews and focus groups over the next two months. Phase 2 of the State of the Market study among the same 1600 participants is underway.